Bill would shift focus of teacher evaluations from ‘punishment to improvement’

In the last few minutes of the House Education Committee meeting today, Rep. Randy Nix, R-LaGrange, said the message to educators is, “We have heard you.”

I never doubted lawmakers heard teachers; it would be hard not to with all the education groups sending representatives to the Gold Dome. But have lawmakers believed teachers?

Lawmaker seem more willing to not only listen to teachers this year, but act on their concerns. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Lawmaker seem more willing to not only listen to teachers this year, but act on their concerns. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

The General Assembly has given educators a lot of lip service over the years, publicly thanking them for their testimony and then privately writing off their comments as self-interest.

That is changing. Because it’s no longer just Georgia educators raising the alarm about the use of test scores to evaluate their performance or the distillation of learning to a single standardized test score. Even the U.S. Department of Education has reversed itself on this issues.

That explains the flurry of bills this year designed to ease the pressures on teachers. One of them earned an airing today in House Ed, although the committee did not vote on  House Bill 1061 by Rep. Tom Dickson, R-Cohutta. It is likely bits of Dickson’s bill could surface in Senate Bill 364, which has already gotten further in the process and which speaks to testing as well as evaluations.

A former teacher, principal and superintendent, Dickson wants test scores to matter less in gauging how well teachers and principals do their jobs. While Georgia law now says student test scores count for 50 percent of a teacher’s rating and 70 percent of a principal’s, HB 1061 lowers those percentages to 30  and 40.

Under Dickson’s bill, student test scores only impact an educator’s evaluation if the student has been in the school for 90 percent of the year. The law now says scores count if the student has been in the class for 65 percent of the year.

With today’s accountability climate, Dickson said test scores must play some part in a teacher’s review. But how much of a part, he said, is debatable. “Is there some kind of a logic that says 30 percent is the magic number? It’s the magic number because that’s what is in there, but I could live with 20 percent or 10 percent.Test data is important; we need to look at it, but that is the least important thing we do. Test data is going to show up there but I am more concerned with how can we improve the teacher.”

As a young educator, Dickson said he had to figure out whether the goal of student discipline was to punish the behavior or correct it. He opted for the latter, saying that’s what an evaluation should also seek to do — correct rather than punish. “Is it solely to get rid of somebody who is not doing what I think they ought to be doing,” he said, “or is it about improving instruction and leadership?”

In slashing the influence of tests in educator evaluations, Dickson creates another scoring category, professional growth, which looks at how teachers strive to improve their practice and their craft. Top rated teachers could earn points by serving as mentors, while teachers who need improvement could gain credit by being a mentee.

Dickson’s bill also relaxes the rules on how often principals have to go into classrooms and observe teachers, saying, “Every teacher doesn’t need the same amount of observation. If you have an outstanding teacher you have seen performing for years, it isn’t necessary to spend six full observations in her classroom. For teachers performing at exemplary or proficient, three observations is an acceptable number, rather than six. Personally, for some of the top teachers, one formal observation is probably sufficient.”

An overlooked part of observations is the conversations that ought to follow, said Dickson. “If we don’t have time where they sit down and talk about what they saw, observation is worthless. If you are only looking for someplace to ding somebody, you don’t worry about the conversation.”

The majority of teachers want to improve, said Dickson, but that has not been a focus, in part because Georgia has not concentrated enough on developing effective school and district leaders. “If  we do a good job with that, it will take care of a lot of other problems we have,” said Dickson.

 

 

Reader Comments 0

33 comments
jgaltjohn
jgaltjohn

Tying test scores to teacher evaluations is monstrously unjust, and is an absolute farce. A teacher should not be held responsible for the actions or abilities of another person as he or she has zero control over either of these things. Furthermore, the teacher has no control over the students assigned to the course, or over the readiness of the students in the course. The idea that administration needs the scores to evaluate teachers is also a ridiculous assumption. In any school setting just about every teacher and administrator can tell you who the ineffective teachers are. They know. Not much can be done about it because replacing ineffective teachers requires a pool of candidates from which to draw. People no longer want to work in the profession precisely because of idiocies like TKES.   Government has tried for years to secure votes by telling people what they want to hear: everyone has equal ability, poor parenting has nothing to do with student achievement, nothing is your fault the blame always lies with someone else.  Politicians have relied on the good will of teachers thus far to continue to perpetrate this scam and the media has colluded to help them. The simply fact is this- teachers can control nothing except themselves and their instuction. What students choose to do with the knowledge imparted to them is not within the educators' control. Believing in fantasy will never lead to effective change because what needs to change has almost nothing to do with actual instruction.



 

Starik
Starik

Something has to be done.  It may be true that only 10-20% of student performance is due to teaching, and that teachers who have underclass kids will have a hard time... but how much of that is the cumulative effect of sub-par teaching every year previously?  If a child is the product of the worst elementary schools in a bad school district the best middle or high school teacher can't make much progress.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

Jerry Eads' comment keeps disappearing so I am posting it for him.


Clemson, you hit an issue dead on. 

As Cat noted, only about 20% of a test score is "explained" by school, and some studies peg that as low as 10-11%. SO, that leaves 80-90% of a test score due to everything else, and a BIG chunk of that is simply "how much mommy and daddy make." What that means is we'd save a lot of money on testing just by collecting family gross income from the 1040. Wouldn't be any less fair, and would be much more accurate.

The only way I see to evaluate teachers accurately and productively is for other teachers to evaluate them. One of the major reasons we started evaluating teachers with kids' test scores was because administrators' evaluations were totally useless. 

Principals were almost always teachers at one time, but (1) most haven't taught in a long time, (2) many got out of the classroom because they didn't like it, and/or (3) some weren't good at it. Why do we expect them to be able to make teaching better? Teaching is one of the most complex professions on the planet. Testing measures only a tiny slice of it, and it does even that very badly. If we really want to improve schooling, we should develop a corps of master teachers to evaluate other teachers. We might even save tax money. That $12 a kid we spend now on low-bid minimum competency testing that tells us absolutely nothing useful about kids OR teachers would go a LONG way to developing that corps. And we'd save even more because we wouldn't need idiots like me downtown managing the purchase of the tests.

And Dickson is right - we've ignored the management of schools and blamed 'the workers.' WAY past time to rethink.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@MaureenDowney for Jerry Eads


There is too much petty jealousy among teachers - I am sorry to inform the public - for teachers' evaluating other teachers to have enough validity to be entirely credible.  


My father, a Director of Vocational Schools, had told me of this fact regarding educators when I was a young person, 50 years ago. I found my father's professional judgment regarding the prevalence of envy among educators still to be valid decades later, as I had performed as an active teacher, and instructional leader, until 2007.


An instructional leader, proven to be objective, needs to evaluate teacher performance. 

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@jerryeads @MaryElizabethSings @MaureenDowney


P.S. I have advocated for Instructional Lead Teachers to be given new life in all public schools in order that they could guide instructional development school wide, including the monitoring of individual students' progress, as well as continue to evaluate other teachers. ILTs have an add-on in state certification and have had training in human dynamics and leadership, as you know.  This may be similar to the models which you describe, above.

Mr_B
Mr_B

@MaryElizabethSings @jerryeads @MaureenDowney I'm sorry, MES, but give the choice between paying a lead teacher or giving a kid a chance to take art, music, drama, advanced math, or PE, I'd spend the money on real actual instruction of the people that we're supposed to be educating.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Mr_B @MaryElizabethSings @jerryeads @MaureenDowney


No need to be sorry, Mr_B, because I can see your point- of-view.  But, I can also see that some - one - person needs to create instructional cohesion and continuity in each school.  Things can go adrift and kids are easily lost in the "gray areas".  Charters can be no better, as we have seen recently in newspaper publicity, about the lack of cohesion and financial accountability, within some charter schools.

jerryeads
jerryeads

@Mr_B @jerryeads @MaryElizabethSings @MaureenDowney yes to all of the above. I'd be fine with taking that $12 a kid and paying more teachers for art and music. M.E., yes, the models I've thought might help use 'itinerant" teachers who stay teachers part time but who evaluate teachers in other schools with the same content (i,e., 5th grade evaluates 5th grade, English evaluates English). 

AND, of course, training and monitoring is frequent, by people who know what they're doing, perhaps housed in the RESAs (as imperfect as that can be)

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@jerryeads @Mr_B @MaryElizabethSings @MaureenDowney


I agree with all you have written, above, Jerry, especially using itinerant teachers, who remain part time teachers, to evaluate teachers IN OTHER SCHOOLS with the same content/grade level.  Excellent idea.


Also, the monitoring suggestion you make is well-taken, and I have always supported the arts in education.

Mr_B
Mr_B

@jerryeads @MaryElizabethSings @MaureenDowney There is no doubt a certain degree of "office politics" involved in teaching, but in most places there would be no essential need for teachers to be evaluated by close co-workers.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@MaryElizabethSings @MaureenDowney I have not seen much of jealousy in my teaching time.  I have had fellow teachers WANTING my feedback in looking for ideas to handle issues, and I felt the same way.  Maybe the jealousy happened.  I know there were petty personality conflicts, but I think that happens most places.  I was always treated well by my fellow teachers (perhaps because I had "senior" status?) (perhaps because I had taught quite a few of my fellow teachers or their husbands?)


The last 14 years of my career I was a "push-in" for ESOL and EIP.  I was in 5-6 teachers' classrooms for about an hour a day every day.  Half the time I worked with newer teachers who needed a little coaching.  Blessedly, I got many good ideas from most of the co-teachers, too.  A win-win.


My most recent principal has done quite well because she was a classroom teacher for nearly 20 years, frequently successfully teaching struggling students.  She has so much to offer her teachers, and is well-respected because she has DONE THAT.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Wascatlady @MaryElizabethSings @MaureenDowney


It is good that you did not experience the envy that others have experienced in education, Wascatlady. This negative emotion is not simply present with some teachers, but it is also present with some educational leaders in school systems, and is even prevalent as high as Georgia's Department of Education. 


Professional jealousy is one of the uglier facts of educational politics. 

Christie_S
Christie_S

@MaureenDowney replying to Jerry's comment via Maureen:


Georgia already has a corps of master teachers, known coincidentally as "Georgia Master Teachers," who have passed rigorous paper and performance-based tests of subject knowledge and pedagogy well beyond what is required for a regular teaching license.  

We can also tap the font of knowledge from teachers who have their NBCT credentials.  


The expertise needed for true peer evaluations is readily available. We simply need for the PTB to tap into it.

jerryeads
jerryeads

@MaryElizabethSings @MaureenDowney The data I've seen suggest that people who don't teach lose touch with teaching, so over time become less able to judge, and more importantly, less able to help improve teaching. Some of the models for a system as I suggested would easily avoid the pettiness with which you're concerned. Such a system would also provide a sorely needed step for teacher career enhancement.

Carlos_Castillo
Carlos_Castillo

When something goes wrong -- as with students not learning in public schools -- Americans have a tendency to blame the individual -- their teachers in the case of schools.   (And the bigger the screw up, the more the individual who made the mistake gets blamed.)   There's even a name for this -- Fundamental Attribution Error.)  Organizations that take this to the extreme find themselves constantly replacing "badly performing" people.


The Japanese have the opposite tendency.  When there is a mistake made, they look first to the environment in which the person works and try to fix the environment.  They also tend to use appraisal results to promote the best and separate the worst.  They don't vary pay increases for the vast majority on the theory that there are so many sources of error that the appraisal results can't be trusted to make fine distinctions.


In fact, individual performance for most employees is determined more by their environments than by individual differences among employees.  A better work environment lifts all boats.


I have no problem with including standardized test results to some small degree in teacher appraisal results, but I think that far more effort ought to be put into structured, periodic assessment of the environment in each individual school.  Afterwards there should be resources devoted to changing the troublesome elements in that school's environment.


Priority would be given to changing those problems at the school that are determined to be the worst problems that can actually be alleviated. (Pareto Charting). 


There's also the little matter of individual teachers actually being part of a team.  For example, if students can't read well, then teachers in subjects that depend on a given level of reading skills won't be as effective.


What I've found odd is how little discussion discussion there has been about addinig some environmental assessment and team assessment into the mix along with individual assessment.









Here's_to_Blue
Here's_to_Blue

I still maintain that the Georgia legislature, as well as the legislatures in other red states, is following the "relentless incrementalism" of Margaret Thatcher.  They are patiently chipping away at public education.  Their ultimate goal is to move all education into a for-profit industry.

Beach Bound2020
Beach Bound2020

@Here's_to_Blue Totally agree with you.  I think those that still believe in the current model of public education being the mechanism that educates the masses in the future are the proverbial "frogs in boiling water."

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

Jerry, Your comment just disappeared. Can you repost? Not sure why it was here and then gone.

ClemsonNeil
ClemsonNeil

Does the learning environment ever come into consideration?


Meaning... if I was a teacher, I'd want to teach in a middle or upper class neighborhood where the odds are that most of the parents are educated and INVOLVED in the education process.  


I think it's unfair for the state to have one standard of evaluating teachers that put good teachers in low income or poor environments at a disadvantage compared to average teachers in middle/upper income environment.

ErnestB
ErnestB

@ClemsonNeil


Differentiated standards with the school SES as one of the considerations?  That would be to difficult for our legislators to consider.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

The problem with this bill remains the same: It is built on the premise that a student's scores are due to the teacher.  Therefore, if a teacher's students score poorly, s/he must need "correction" and "improvement."


Coming up through school, my kids occasionally had teachers that were mediocre.  However, they always learned, they always did well on standardized tests.


VERY LITTLE of how well a student does in K-12 is the result of the teacher.  How much enthusiasm the student has, a LOT of that has to do with the teacher. How much more the student wants to learn about the subject, a LOT of that has to do with the teacher.  Differences in teachers explains less than 20% of the variance in student scores.


To evaluate a teacher, watch him/her in action, and not just formally.  Ask the teacher WHY they chose to do a certain thing--the ones that know what they are doing can tell you.  Ask them about student strengths and weaknesses--they can tell you.  Ask them what can be done to improve instruction at the school--they can tell you, and you as an administrator should follow up on the ideas.


Bean counting may work in some fields, but education is not one of them!

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Oh, and on the "student scores"--it remains to be seen if tests will be used that are valid and reliable.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

To put it in terms a legislator might understand: If a law designed by the legislature is repeatedly broken, the LEGISLATORS must need to be "corrected" and "improved," and perhaps their pay diminished.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

I posted this comment and question on the AJC Get Schooled Facebook page and wanted to also share here.

Some of the most interesting comments at the House Ed meeting yesterday centered on how many times teachers need to be observed by principals for evaluations. The law sets six as the required number, but many teachers tell me they are not being observed six times. The sponsor of one of the three bills on teacher evals, himself a former teacher, principal and superintendent, said Georgia should relax the rigidity around teacher observations and give principals leeway. He said principals know their teachers and know which high performing ones may only need one perfunctory observation and which struggling teachers may need several. But would eliminating fixed requirements for observations or making the law flexible result in some teachers never being observed? I have had teachers say their observations were "10 minute drive-bys." And do you think observations yield anything in the first place? 

BRV
BRV

My wife is an elementary school principal. She has 62 teachers on her staff. That's 372 observations to do. There needs to be flexibility. The number of observations required currently is completely arbitrary.

observations can be useful but the paucity of teaching experience among most administrators tends to limit their effectiveness. My wife taught for 12 years before going into administration. Her two APs have a combined 8 years of teaching experience and both have been administrators longer than they've been teachers. My wife's staff is largely veteran and she knows that there is a fair amount of eye rolling when she sends the APs out to do observations. They really don't have the experience to be effective instructional leaders.

Th state legislature and the DoE need to stop micromanaging the process as well. Ordering principals to give out more twos and fewer threes turns the process into a farce. People end up with no investment in the process if they believe that it's nothing more than principals hitting quota targets.

Legong
Legong

Legislators have no doubt heard from many teachers on this issue. 

But not all teachers take the radical position common to groups such as the union-affiliated Georgia Association of Educators (GAE) -- which anyway represents only a small minority of Georgia teachers.

As an educator, it has been my observation that most teachers accept that the evaluation process is necessary, that ridiculously few under-performing teachers are ever dismissed, and that there will always be those who choose to pretend otherwise.

Especially in an election year.

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

@Legong blahblahblahbah...Yes.......NO...Union......Blah Blah..........?

BRV
BRV

Wow! Intelligent education policy from the legislature. Honestly it's hard to believe. Not surprised it's coming form a former teacher.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

". . . he had to figure out whether the goal of student discipline was to punish the behavior or correct it. He opted for the latter, saying that’s what an evaluation should also seek to do — correct rather than punish. 'Is it solely to get rid of somebody who is not doing what I think they ought to be doing,' he said, 'or is it about improving instruction and leadership?' ”

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++


An excellent philosophy for all endeavors not only for educational ones.  There is a fundamental respect for humanity and for life, itself, contained within the above philosophy of education.